I’m hardly surprised that my spam filter decided a message with the subject line “Hey it’s Edmumd (c*nt)” should be kept from me (asterisk added by me, needless to say). Even if it had reached my inbox, I probably would presumed it was another inexplicably angry WAR fan having a shout at us or something. Fortunately, Edmund was persistent, and thanks to his follow-up mail I was discovered he was in fact Edmund McMillen, the creator of the vaginally-titled shmup we posted about last week.
He’s also the creator of the acclaimed Gish, winner of the 2005 Independent Game Festival grand prize. So when he revealed he was about to release a new game, darn-tootin’ I was interested.
Aether, a flash affair hosted at the increasingly all-consuming Armor Games, is described by Edmund as “a labour of love.” Which means it’s certainly not another opus of filth like C*nt. While to say it has a narrative might be stretching things a little, it certainly has a theme – childhood yearning and fear. There are shades of both Braid and Psychonauts to it, the characters you meet apparently aspects of your character’s own insecurities, and expressing arrogance, introversion and depression by turns. Sad, angry and really angry faces abound in the scenery itself, lending an affecting pathos to the levity of your rope-swinging, gravity-defying movement; nominally it’s about space exploration, but really it’s a journey through tortured emotions.
McMillen’s own tortured emotions, it seems – “It’s a very honest and personal project I’ve been a little worried about making public because it exposes a lot of the fears I had when I was a child and puts me in a vulnerable places. But I feel like there are some out there that can appreciate something honest that has a lot of heart.”
It’s beautiful to look at, and the rope-swinging (well, actually alien tongue-swinging) spacefaring is a pleasure. As with Coil, another of McMillen’s art-gaming projects, there are no hints as such to its handful of puzzles. I found at least a couple a little frustrating, but the others were pleasantly intuitive, in keeping with the dreamlike flow of the game. It does need a mute function for the looped piano music, however.
We’ll hopefully have an interview with Edmund soon about Gish, his naughtier games and his upcoming projects.